Tuesday, February 23, 2010

If I Died Today...

Late last night, while reflecting away in bed having been woken up by the computer restarting itself at half 3, thoughts of what would happen if I died suddenly today or in the near future passed through my head. Why, I don't know; and quite frankly, I'm hoping that I won't be passing away anytime soon(!), but it just happened. I thought about what kind of 'legacy' I would have left behind me in the event that this happened, but to be quite honest, I didn't really think much further than that because the subject was too sordid and it was not exactly the appropriate time to do so either.

Now is the time to reflect about this slightly - I'll leave the rest to whoever feels like commenting afterwards (if any person does, that is). One thing for certain, I believe, is that I would have left behind a cloud of controversy in my wake. I've never been the most uncontroversial person around and indeed, have always seen myself as trying to push certain borders and boundaries in order to either prove a point or get my way, no matter how correct or incorrect I was. However, in light of the controversial nature, I think that over the last couple of years or so, I have become a better person overall, compared to what I used to be. Granted, I was never one who would go out every Friday night, or any other night for that matter, and get stoned out of my head or dangerously high, but I believe I have become a better person in the sense that nowadays I see myself as a less egotistical figure and someone who is more willing to bend over backwards to not only accomodate other people, but to help them out to the best of my abilities, where possible. In other words, the humanitarian within me, I feel, has emerged more over recent years.

Of course, what is sure to draw some form of criticism from my readers, as is generally the case (but I will never back down about this, no matter how many sticks, stones and derogatory terms are thrown at me) is the fact that another 'legacy' that I would have left behind me is that of getting closer to God and, in this light, hopefully being an example for others to follow. Perhaps it's coincidence, but the above point vis-a-vis my (willing and not enforced) humanitarian nature coincided with the same time that I made God a part of my life. Of course, various people will or might disagree on this point completely, and I wouldn't be surprised if they do, but I believe that God's presence in my life has made a hell of a big difference with regards to the way I live. With Him in my life, I feel fulfilled and I feel a sense of protection that I previously didn't feel.

Would I have achieved everything that I set out to achieve in life? Definitely not, but if I had to go sometime soon, then for the most part, I feel that I would have left a general positive impact on people's lives, even though certain people obviously wouldn't see this and believe that my effect in life has probably been the total opposite.

And now, if you wish, over to you. (Any derogatory comments posted will either be ignored completely or be subject to deletion.)

God Bless You all!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Bureaucratic Processes at the University of Malta

I'm still debating whether to publish my opinions vis-a-vis this subject in the Times in the form of a letter; principally because I am somewhat fearful of obtaining some kind of negative 'label' from lecturers (despite my common name, and all) and hence influencing my exam grades in some manner. However, basically, the point behind this written below is a complaint about how long it takes for exam results to be published at University.

While I can understand that lecturers lead a busy life and that they tend to many students, I think that it is particularly shameful that a month has passed since our first January exam and no results have yet come out. The point behind this is that foreign counterparts at foreign Universities are given a specific timeframe in which to have the students' results at least preliminarily published, i.e. indicating what grading bracket the student would fall into, but in Malta, the truth is that students are faced with the opposite scenario altogether.

Us students have come to accept the fact that results do take a bit of time to come out, especially if there are many people sitting for a subject; and that as a general rule, one shouldn't expect anything to emerge within at least two and a half weeks from the date of the examination. However, I find it downright irresponsible and unprofessional on behalf of the lecturers who correct our papers - if they even do correct thoroughly, that is - that they continue to procrastinate accordingly, causing agony to the student, who would generally be keen to find out how he or she fared within the exam that he or she sat for. A pristine example is what happened to me last year, in a credit in which there were not more than 40 students sitting for final assessment. The lectures took place over a weekend in February, following which the lecturer had informed us that we would be given a 1,500 word assignment on the subject that was due for April 1. One would estimate that at most, the result would come out around a three weeks later - but no, the result actually came out in June 30, i.e. three full months after the due date. I don't know if there is a certain criteria preventing results from being published in the middle of a semester, but I find this shameful, to say the least.

As stated above, in almost all Universities abroad, lecturers are given a timeframe in which they must correct their students' exam papers and publish results, and, unpredictably, this is adhered to in practically all circumstances (barring exceptional ones). Here in Malta, last year, it was suggested that if six weeks (from the time of the examination) had passed whereby the result of a subject hadn't been received, we should send an email to the KSU Education Commission, who would then investigate the matter accordingly and get back to us after supposedly putting pressure on the lecturers to deliver the results. I have personally had mixed experiences with this system, because while I did get a prompt answer in relation to, if I remember correctly, my Family Law exam back in March 2009; I did not get any answer whatsoever from the Commission vis-a-vis Administrative Law exam in July 2009. Needless to say, the result for Administrative Law came out on July 23 - the exam was held on June 4. Therefore, seven weeks passed before we received any confirmation of our results. In itself, this also brings up a criticism of KSU, who, in defending the rights of the students, should have at least had the decency to answer my email accordingly, even if the answer that I would have received would have been something to the effect that they had no idea when the result would be coming out. Alas, perhaps a member of the Education Commission was on holiday at the time - or received her results already - and therefore the need to tend to my request was deemed unimportant.

To conclude with my arguments, here's my personal suggestion to lecturers. Last year, they had made a whole fuss because their collective agreement had expired and that their pay was measly. They justified this argument by stating that they should be receiving the same salaries as their European counterparts (for people who are meant to be pioneers in their field of research, I find this argument extremely flawed because none of the lecturers seemed to take into account that the cost and standard of living in Malta is lower than that in Europe - someone with even half a brain would had been able to successfully argue that). Well, following a lot of hassling, a new collective agreement was reached. However, if they really did want to be paid like their European counterparts, then why don't they start acting like their European counterparts too? This includes not skipping lectures without prior notice, using the proper media to deliver lectures, actually delivering lectures properly and not giving (sometimes) conflicting information, and, finally, correcting those wretched exam papers within a stipulated period of time and publishing the results as soon as possible! Until then, such lecturers should firmly put their money where their mouth is.

God Bless You all!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Tales of Maltese Roads: Vol 1,000,001

I know so many blogs, articles, columns and probably theses have been written about the mediocrity of the Maltese roads, but I guess another one to add to never-ending list wouldn't really do any harm. And with due reason this is the case, because driving on this island is increasingly becoming even more of a nightmare with time - too many cars in too little space, and an undoubted hierarchy among drivers within the system, with especially bus and taxi drivers assuming that they are kings of the road and hence rule the roost over mere 'peasants', i.e. the normal, everyday driver.

I'd be lying if I said that all Maltese drivers are not of an adequate standard, because undoubtedly, there are some drivers who take pride in exercising an element of caution when moving around and follow every rule by the book. However, I would also be lying if I said that all Maltese drivers are disciplined, good-natured and of an excellent standard, as demonstrated by a little experience that I passed through while driving earlier on this afternoon, and probably as demonstrated by many other drivers in the past.

On my way down to Sliema, I had to pass through a narrow road (which is a two-way street), through which a bus was coming. Obviously, with the road being too narrow for both my car and the bus to pass, I stopped by the side, giving what I deemed enough room for the bus to pass. To cut a long story short, the bus driver decided that he couldn't pass without hitting my car and told me - or more like demanded - that I must reverse so that his royal arse could pass. The only problem was that there was another car on my tail, making it a bit impossible to, well, reverse without hitting it (eventually the woman behind me did reverse herself, hence allowing me to move). Now, I would have been fine with all of this happening, especially if the bus couldn't indeed pass, but why the bus driver's demands had to include a multitude of swear words and blaming everything on God, in Maltese naturally so that it sounded even more uncivilised and primitive, is beyond me. As did the jibe that he passed afterwards, "Fejn iz-**** tghallimt issuq?", which actually did make me snap a bit because my only alternative, before the woman reversed, was to drive into the wall so that the bus could pass. Honestly, if these are the kind of people that are going to be heading the new Public Transport system when it comes into force, then please, for the love of God, kill me now.

It seems as if one only sees this ridiculous hierarchy more in Malta than anywhere else in the world. When I visited Italy, which isn't exactly the most renowned place for safe driving, the taxi driver/s that I had rode with were actually courteous, polite and, most important, drove safely and didn't overcharge us, as his passengers. In Malta, it's the complete opposite, as the country seems to thrive on negligent thugs who believe that the road is owned by the them, and God forbid you defy this for them in any way, means or form because they'll actually be hunting for your blood - just ask Austin Gatt, when he took the decision to liberalise the Public Transport, Taxi and Hearse markets. Sometimes, it actually makes you wonder if Malta is indeed part of 21st Century Europe; as well as how much progress has been made by the Maltese people overall since when Hagar Qim Temples were built.

Unfortunately, the problem doesn't seem to be getting better either. As time goes by, more and more people will start driving and more and more cars will be on the road, making it inevitable that such instances will continuously occur and tempers will famously flare up all too often. Add this to a lack of proper education vis-a-vis driving skills by most instructors, who are either interested in having a coffee or biting their nails while their students waste their petrol (while obviously charging extremely high rates for doing so) and you have a continued recipe for disaster. Only when the current generation of bad crops passes away and these are replaced by people who have been properly taught how to drive will we have peace on the roads of Malta. In other words, this should read that it's never going to happen.

God Bless You all!

Monday, February 8, 2010

"Front Kontra c-Censura"

The latest attempt to regulate the state has ended up with a hell of a lot of rotten eggs on the faces of the ever-so-competent Maltese police force as now, prior to the Nadur Carnival, the aforementioned police are demanding to look at the lyrics of each song being played by rock bands to eliminate, or, essentially, censor, any possible vulgarities that there might be. Needless to say, this is yet another absolutely pathetic attempt at making Malta about as forward thinking as the 1960's.

I know that I have often criticised Joseph Muscat for his 'progressive' approach, and I still do believe that it is indeed nothing more than a bunch of unquantified bullshit, but I honestly do believe that Maltese society cannot remain stuck in the Middle Ages and must move on with the times. Such things do not happen in continental states, such as Germany; and while our country is indeed rooted in tradition and culture, does such tradition and culture have to be totally and completely embraced to the core? Furthermore, how can Malta be respected as a country on the international plane if it continues to insist with censorship laws that about as outdated as our great grandparents?

People and/or entities such as Teresa Friggieri, the Maltese Police Force and the University Rector have to stop choking Malta in this sense. The country already takes an age vis-a-vis its European counterparts to progress accordingly, so why should such personalities continue to stifle the country with their antiquated methods of thinking?

Ultimately, to conclude this brief argument, I have to say that I do agree with a certain amount of censorship in the sense that if there are obscene vulgarities that will, in all probability, cause offence to the majority of people, then such things should give due warnings due to their vulgarities. However, if the authorities responsible still do want to make their event/occasion available to the public, despite this, adults who believe that they will not feel offended by such events should still be given the opportunity to go ahead and watch accordingly. Of course, when it comes to minors under the age of 18 in terms of the law, the situation should be different and age restrictions, as there already are, should be enforced. However, it is grossly unfair that certain people should indeed regulate that which the public at large is allowed to see or not see, especially as perspectives differ from person to person and the element of subjectivity is therefore ripe.

But anyway, till now, "Big Brother is watching you."

God Bless You all!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

End of Exams... Soon

Finally, in 17 hours from the time that this has been written, exams will, at long last, be over. Until the end of May, but still.

The last week and a half or so has been relatively hectic for more than one reason, the principal one being trying to cram in every single bit of information possible into that relatively stubborn cranium of mine with mixed success. I always hate the period that ensues after exams, that lengthy bit of time that it takes to wait for results accordingly. People are all too often so curious to see how they've fared and whether they got the grades that they really desired and/or deserved after putting in a substantial effort into a particular subject. I believe I fall into that category. Others, of course, are quite nonchalant about this but to each his own, I guess.

So far, third year has been more pressured than last year, but I know all too well that the worst is still to come. As the second semester approaches, so too do 120 cases to remember solely in Contract Law (God help me, I was already struggling - relatively - to remember around 15 for our January test!!), another unspecified amount in Tort Law, more precious time (wasted) with everyone's favourite lecturer in Señor Quintano, and the horrors from hell at the end of May, all probably condensed into one week of sheer wrist-slitting. Something to really look forward to; it really makes me appreciate what former students have passed through, practically sweating blood to make it. At least if we're going to get our LL.B.'s, we sure as hell are going to earn them.

It just makes me want to go back to the January 2009 session of examinations and do Family Law all over again. And I thought that was bad... how wrong I was.

And on a completely unrelated note, I will conclude here with a powerful Bible verse that I came across...

"My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. (Proverbs 3:11-12)

God Bless You all!